Are you tired of your current internet provider? Looking for a less complicated option? T-Mobile's 5G fixed wireless alternative might be for you.
T-Mobile has to be feeling pretty pleased about its 5G home internet offering. The number of subscribers keeps rising -- it's up to over 3 million customers, per the company's Q1 2023 report. At the end of 2022, the Federal Communications Commission included T-Mobile Home Internet as one of only 11 fixed internet providers able to cover over 5% of the US population. Earlier in the year, the company made a splash with the American Customer Satisfaction Index's 2022 survey results, which placed the newcomer second among all national internet service providers. Not too shabby.
T-Mobile Home Internet started rolling out as a pilot program early in 2021, and one of my (now former) CNET colleagues, Rick Broida, was one of the first to give it a test run. By April 2021, T-Mobile announced it had launched its home broadband service nationwide. A short year later, it proclaimed it had expanded its availability to 40 million households, and CNET's Eli Blumenthal gave it a try.
We've been aware of T-Mobile's desire to use 5G to break into the home internet game for quite some time. But now that the company's home broadband offering is established, what does that mean for you? Does 5G home internet offer something new? Is T-Mobile Home Internet a viable option to replace your current ISP?
Locating local internet providers
First, the price is right: T-Mobile charges $50 a month (and that's reduced to $30 for Magenta Max mobile customers). On top of that, you don't have to worry about long-term contracts or data caps. Pretty sweet, right?
Definitely, but it's early days yet. Although T-Mobile Home Internet is currently available to over 50 million homes across the US, many locations and addresses can't get it. While 5G is the marquee player on this bill, T-Mobile relies on 4G LTE to help expand its home internet service area. This means that of the 5G home internet providers, T-Mobile will offer the slowest speeds on average. But let's dig into the details.
Locating local internet providers
When discussing any ISP, it's always good to begin by answering the fundamental question: Can I get this service? T-Mobile Home Internet is available to over 50 million households across the country. That makes it the US's most widely available 5G home internet service. By comparison, Verizon's 5G Home Internet service has rolled out in approximately 900 markets but is available to around 40 million homes. In the meantime, T-Mobile is open to signups in over 600 cities but more households, many within rural areas.
Check the T-Mobile Home Internet eligibility page to determine if your address is serviceable.
As mentioned, T-Mobile is the most widely available 5G home internet service. But when you consider that US Census data puts the total number of households in the country at over 124 million, about 68% of households remain ineligible for T-Mobile Home Internet.
A T-Mobile spokesperson didn't have specific details on expansion plans but highlighted that more than 10 million households in the current footprint are within rural America. Additionally, there's a focus on expanding access for small towns and communities. For those outside the current availability window, T-Mobile's site mentions that expansion could take six months or more and allows interested parties to put their name on the list for down the road.
That said, T-Mobile also announced a Home Internet Lite service, open to anyone within a T-Mobile service area. While that broadens the company's availability footprint, it wouldn't be right to include this as part of T-Mobile Home Internet, as Lite has a 100GB data cap.
Simplicity is one of the biggest things that jumps out at me when I look at T-Mobile Home Internet. There isn't an array of tiers and options from which to choose because there's one plan and one plan only.
|Plan||Max speeds||Monthly price||Equipment fee||Data cap||Contract|
|T-Mobile Home Internet||33-182Mbps download, 6-23Mbps upload||$50 ($30 for eligible Magenta Max mobile customers)||None||None||None|
There aren't many qualifiers when discussing T-Mobile Home Internet plans. It's one plan, one price and no additional fees. The premise of 5G home internet is that, unlike typical internet connection types (including coaxial cable lines, fiber-optic internet and digital subscriber line), you're not reliant on underground constructions and deployments to get you connected. Instead, it's a fixed wireless service that provides you with a router that connects to a cellular signal.
T-Mobile provides its Wi-Fi Gateway device, a combination modem and Wi-Fi 6 router compatible with T-Mobile's 4G LTE and 5G networks. As you can see from the chart, the only variable is the average download and upload speed you'll experience. At the bare minimum, T-Mobile says all eligible households will see average download speeds of 33 megabits per second. Depending on your location and the placement of the T-Mobile Gateway, you might see download speeds as high as 182Mbps or more.
The hope and promise of 5G and its capabilities have not yet been fully realized. My colleague Eli Blumenthal has wonderfully detailed the basics of 5G and how not all "5G" is the same. In summary: Faster 5G speeds come with shorter ranges. The farther the distance, the less speed on the top end.
For T-Mobile to hit the road running with availability to over 30 million households at its launch, it needed to lean on its 4G LTE network and its growing 5G network. That's why my CNET colleagues averaged just over 40Mbps download speeds with T-Mobile Home Internet, and some households may get up to just over 100Mbps. Anecdotally, we've heard of some users seeing download speeds as high as 300Mbps. Still, T-Mobile's FAQ section promises customers will "see typical download speeds between 33-182Mbps." So, that may be plenty of speed for many but don't expect the higher download speeds you might get with fiber internet or cable plans. At least not yet.
One of the significant wins for T-Mobile Home Internet is its straightforwardness. There's no pesky small print. ISPs are notorious for their hidden fees and trap pricing -- they try to lure you in with enticing promo prices but then stick you with a larger bill after those terms expire. That's not the case here.
T-Mobile Home Internet features no data caps, so you don't have to fear data overage fees. There's no equipment fee for the Gateway device, so you don't have to figure out an additional monthly cost to tack on to your regular bill. It also requires no annual service contracts, so you don't have any early termination fees looming over your head. These are all appealing aspects of this service and make it very enticing to try T-Mobile Home Internet if it's available in your area.
All that said, there is one additional fee you'll have to pay once at the start of your service: a $35 "device connection charge" similar to the activation fee you pay with many ISPs.
In addition to its consumer-friendly simplicity, T-Mobile is sweetening the pot for potential customers.
First, families with eligible Magenta Max plans can save $20 monthly. T-Mobile also offers new customers six months of SiriusXM (a $66 value) and a full year of the Spanish-language streaming service ViX Plus. Third, you can subscribe to Philo TV for $15 a month for one year ($10 off monthly). Fourth, home internet customers can participate in T-Mobile Tuesdays, the company's weekly discount and free perks promotion.
Additionally, T-Mobile boasts a Price Lock guarantee, which means no rate changes for as long as you remain a customer. It also runs a "Worry-free Test Drive" promotion, during which customers can try the service for 15 days with a money-back guarantee. Also, T-Mobile is offering customers $50 back in a virtual prepaid Mastercard if they switch over to T-Mobile Home Internet from another provider. Lastly, if customers are switching from a provider midcontract, T-Mobile will pay up to $750 in termination fees. That's impressive.
Regarding availability, T-Mobile is ahead of its 5G home internet competitors, Starry and Verizon. Starry is available in five major metropolitan areas: Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC. Verizon is available in more cities than T-Mobile (currently 900) but is behind T-Mobile's total households covered.
However, Starry and Verizon have the upper hand on average download speeds. Starry customers typically see consistent download speeds of 200Mbps, and Verizon's 5G Home Internet plans average around 300Mbps. What Starry and Verizon have given up regarding widespread availability, they currently make up for in the average speeds they deliver.
All three 5G home internet providers share freedom from all the hidden fees and pricing games that many cable and fiber ISPs play. With 5G, the monthly rate is the monthly rate. There are no added fees, equipment rental charges, data caps or binding annual contracts.
Regarding 5G, we're much closer to the beginning than the end of where everything will shake out. If it's speed you're after, T-Mobile's 5G home internet service might not impress you if you have other cable and fiber internet providers available at your address. But if you're in a rural or less developed area where DSL or satellite was your only previous option, T-Mobile will feel lightning fast by comparison.
Overall, T-Mobile has positioned itself as a viable option in the home internet space, making it an intriguing player to watch as it expands its 5G infrastructure. If nothing else, since it demands no contract commitment, it's an opportunity to try a different option and maybe even use it as leverage to negotiate with your current internet service provider. Hopefully, the more options we have as consumers, our internet service will improve in the long run.
No. T-Mobile Home Internet features unlimited data. Customers will not have any potential data overage fees or charges hanging over their heads. That said, T-Mobile Home Internet customers could find their service slowed in cases where the company prioritizes its mobile users over its fixed wireless customers.
Yes. One of the appealing aspects of T-Mobile Home Internet is that its monthly fee -- $50 a month if you use AutoPay and $30 a month for eligible Magenta Max mobile customers -- includes a 5G Gateway (a modem/router combo device). The T-Mobile equipment lease is included in the one fee, and all that's required is that you return the device when you end service with T-Mobile.
For the most part, yes, but not unequivocally. As T-Mobile says in its Open Internet policy, "many factors affect the speed and performance that customers experience, including … proximity to a cell site, weather and the surrounding terrain," so your download speeds, which average between 33-182Mbps, are not guaranteed. But customers should see download speeds higher than those typically achieved by HughesNet (average of 25Mbps) and Viasat (12-100Mbps). The Starlink plans boast a higher range (20-250Mbps) but are not as widely available as T-Mobile Home Internet. It's also much more expensive -- $90-$120 a month, plus a one-time equipment fee of $599.
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